Recent research conducted by South Dakota State University (SDSU) in collaboration with the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service indicates that producers whose production practices include building soil health are 158% more likely to have a profitable enterprise, particularly in a challenging year. They are also more likely to experience less stress, are more satisfied with farming/ranching, have more fun, and are more optimistic than conventional producers who do not focus on these practices.
SDSU conducted a survey asking both conventional-practice producers and soil health-practice producers to assess their stress levels on a range of issues from market price volatility to extreme weather events. Producers were also asked to assess their operation’s profitability, concerns about input costs, and opportunities for operational succession. 107 producers completed the survey, with 65 of those being soil health producers and the rest being conventional producers.
Key survey findings include:
Increased Profitability—158% difference
- 31% of soil health producers reported increased profitability during the past year while only 12% of conventional producers could report increased profitability.
Likelihood of Future Farm Profitability—92% difference
- 69% of soil health producers predicted their farm profitability would increase in the next 3-5 years versus 36% of conventional producers.
Future Resiliency of Operations—38% difference
- 83% of soil health producers were optimistic about the future resiliency of their operations to weather extremes compared to 60% of conventional farmers.
Attitude about Agricultural Experience—150% difference
- 30% of soil health producers described their 2019 experience in agriculture as “challenging but fun” compared to only 12% of conventional producers (despite additional flooding and trade market challenges).
SDSU’s Larry Gigliotti, Ph.D., who published the report, said there was a direct correlation between the number of soil health practices the farmers and ranchers used (i.e. no-till, cover crops, diverse cropping rotations, etc.) and the level of stress and happiness they reported experiencing or anticipated in the future. In other words, the producers using more soil health practices were reporting higher levels of satisfaction and reporting less stress than the soil health producers who used less practices.
These survey results suggest that increased land resiliency mitigates climate or weather extremes which reduces stress and increases satisfaction. The full survey report, as well as several infographics are available on the SD Soil Health Coalition website.